music morsels
February 2008

INDUSTRY PROFILE - John Waterman - Editor/Publisher, Bandit A&R Newsletter
by Mark E. Waterbury

John Waterman

John Waterman took a back door route into the music industry. Born in London before moving to the town of Newport on the Isle of Wight at a young age, his first passion was science and electronics. His tinkering led him to buy sound recording equipment for some friends of his who had a three piece band. John briefly managed the band as well, but cultivated more of a desire to record bands. Purchasing more professional equipment, he recorded projects from bands and singer/songwriters for various labels, before starting his own label Solent Records in 1970. Over the thirty-seven years of Solent’s existence they have released over one hundred albums. In 1988, John met up with someone who had started a publication called Bandit. He wanted to sell the paper and go into management, so John bought Bandit for ten pounds. Growing the publication from an original twenty subscribers, John changed the name to Bandit A&R Newsletter. The monthly newsletter links bands and musicians with those who can help to grow their careers, from labels and managers to publishers and agents, with blanket coverage of the U.S. and the U.K. as well as many other countries worldwide. John’s hard work has built Bandit A&R Newsletter into one of the more respected and popular resources for bands, musicians and music professionals in the world today. January, 2008 marked Bandit's 20th anniversary.

MM: What did you do when you took over Bandit just to start growing it?

JW: I changed the format a bit and made it look more professional. I started advertising more in the U.K. music and recording magazines and just gradually built it up over the years.

MM: For those who don’t know of it, what is the main purpose behind Bandit?

JW: The main purpose behind Bandit is to give songwriters and artists and producers who are trying to sign an investor for their music more outlets to take on new projects. There are thousand of companies out there, but at any given moment, ninety percent of them just aren’t interested in anything new. The situation always changes, so we are trying to get people the idea of who at that particular moment may be wanting to take on a new project.

MM: Do you think that bands sometimes don’t keep up with the pulse of the music business, and that is why they need a resource like Bandit?

JW: If you are a band in a small, remote town somewhere without easy access to the business, how are you going to know who to send your music to unless you do it blindly out of some directory or somewhere? We are a directory of sorts, but Bandit is more like; who is never interested, who is sometimes interested, who has been there before. Blindly using a regular directory is a very wasteful and expensive way of trying to tap into the music industry, because the majority of the contacts won’t be interested in your music.

MM: Do you think that Bandit has helped people over the years?

JW: Oh yes, hundreds! The web site has quite a few testimonials of people who were helped by it.

MM: With everything you do with Bandit and Solent Records, I would guess you are in this business to help musicians. Do musicians readily accept that help, or do your find that they sometimes still think they can do it all and know it all?

JW: I think there are two problems that musicians have to overcome; one is not to be content with being average, and the second is being willing to invest in their own development and marketing. Many people I speak to just can’t see that they should pay money for me to research these resources for them, and I mean I don’t ask them to come over here and play me a gig for free. (laughs)

MM: I assume you have to do extensive research just to keep Bandit up to date.

JW: Yes. It takes me working most of the hours in the day for at least a couple of weeks each month to do that. Each issue is researched on the phone, through email or various methods to get fresh people in every month. In each issue, there may be about half the people who have been in there in the past before, and most of them have had good experiences with being in Bandit so are happy to be in there again. The other half are newcomers that I just discovered or are new people starting up new businesses.

MM: Do you have good relationships with people in various facets of the music business that you can tap into for your research and advice?

JW: Yeah, I think most of the people in the music business are incredibly helpful and open if you treat them in a businesslike manor.

MM: Do you think that is an important attitude for anyone in the music business, whether they are musicians or business professionals?

JW: Yes. Just the other day I had a local band ask me what they need to do to be successful. I told them my five factors are originality; material that clicks with an audience; an exciting performance; a strong work ethic; and an adult business attitude.

MM: Even with Bandit being around for twenty years now, do you feel that you can always still grow it and improve it as you go?

JW: Yes, it still grows slowly, There are always some new methods to connect with the audience. Whether you have online advertising or pay per click or myspace or whatever, there is always some new language you can tap into to try to connect with new people who you are trying to help. It has been suggested that I start a voice service since some people don’t sit down and read a paragraph anymore, so I am considering the possibility of doing that.

MM: What do you enjoy the most about doing Bandit?

JW: The most satisfying thing is getting up in the morning and having a message jump out saying, thanks John, I got a publishing deal or a record deal. When these messages come in I feel that I made a difference in someone's life in some way. They may tell me that because of Bandit they found “X” and that led them to “Y” and then “Z” and down the line like that. Bandit started them on the chain.

MM: You have already given some advice to musicians, what is the most basic, sound advice you can give a fledgeling musician?

JW: I think if you are going to be successful you have to come to grips with the business aspect of it. Everybody that you are trying to connect with in the music business is looking at it from a business perspective. You have to realize that whatever investment someone makes in you at the end of the day the people have to put their hands in their pockets to buy it, whether it is a CD or a download or whatever it is. Even a small budget release has to find a big enough audience to recoup that investment. If they don’t, then you won’t have a very long relationship.

MM: What basic advice do you have for business people?

JW: With business people there are two schools really. There are the new people coming into the business who have lots of optimism and ideas and they want to be successful and find artists of their own merit who they can bring to the market and sell records. Then you have the others who have been in the business longer who for one reason or another have a jaundiced view of what is happening, and want to concentrate more on their past glories and back catalogue. That leaves both of them open to invest in the next great thing. They have to stick with it and pick out the right people who are most likely to stick into the public consciousness.

For a free trial subscription to Bandit A&R Newsletter, please visit

Division of Serge Entertainment Group